Written by Hombre DivertidoER: Season 13 is a treasure…hunt.
On July 6th 2010, Warner Home Video released all twenty-three episodes of the classic hospital dram ER. Though there are certainly some gems in this season, one must dig through many overwritten and acted stories that include rehashed and cartoon characters.
In the opening episode, we return to Cook County Hospital in Chicago, to wrap up one of the worst cliffhangers in the history of the series. Sam (Linda Cardellini) and her son Alex (Dominic Janes) have been kidnapped by her escaped convict husband Steve (Garret Dillahunt). Jerry (Abraham Benrubi) has been shot, and unbeknownst to everyone else on staff, a pregnant and bleeding Abby (Maura Tierney) has passed out and Luka (Goran Visnjic) has been tied to a bed and intubated. Yes, there is a lot going on. Unfortunately it plays out like pure desperation on the part of the writers. The kidnapping especially is horribly contrived, poorly written and executed.
In the second episode efforts are made to get things back to order, but there are too many fragments from the first episode bomb, to make this episode worth watching.
The first gem of the season is found in the guest performance by John Mahoney as an older gay man who comes into the ER with his partner. The entire episode may not be great, but the performance by Mahoney and the direction of the episode by Stephen Cragg are.
Eventually the season does get going, and there are some fine stories and performances including those of guest stars Forest Whitaker, Sally Field, Robert Prosky, Stacy Keach, and the afore mentioned Mahoney.
In season thirteen J. P. Manoux as Dr. Dustin Crenshaw, is the primary antagonist and what would appear to be an attempt to replace Paul McCrane as Dr. Robert Romano. The character of Dr. Crenshaw is far too much of a cartoon for this series. Eventually Stanly Tucci as Dr. Kevin Moretti would take over ER operations and serve as a far superior antagonist as the character has much more depth. Also jumping into many storylines in season 13 is John Stamos as former EMT and new intern Tony Gates. In many scenes Stamos appears to be channeling a young George Clooney, and it is extremely distracting.
Though season thirteen makes a valiant effort to balance the stories revolving around the personal lives of the staff at the ER, and the stories of the patients, the failure comes in the writing of the plots for the regular cast. The episodes revolving around the love triangle between Neela (Parminder Nagra), Gates, and Ray (Shane West) is boring and the outcome is fat too contrived.
Season thirteen ends with a far more reasonable cliffhanger than that of the twelfth season, and leaves the audience with an optimistic perspective of Season fourteen.
Recommendation: Season thirteen is worth owning due primarily to the guest performances. There are more bad episodes than good, but generally the direction of the episodes in season thirteen are superior to previous seasons. Many episodes feature music that is both poignant and powerful.
Season thirteen appears to contain more sexual situations than previous seasons, and there is an unusual amount of blood as choices are made to show many of the procedures in graphic detail.
The only bonus material is the “Outpatient Outtakes” and in most cases it is clear why these scenes were deleted.
Article first published as DVD Review: ER - The Complete Thirteenth Season on Blogcritics.